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Run Efficient

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Stone Cat 50

Well the last race of the year is in the books. 

The Stone Cat 50 and marathon in Ipswich, MA are beautiful races presented by Gil's Athletic Club.  For the past 5 years or so I've been interested in this race but failed to sign up quick enough.  Last year I had the opportunity to pace Zak through his fantastic 50 finish.  Getting a preview of the course definitely solidified the desire to experience these trails again, for a little longer.

There were five weeks after the Maine Marathon to get acclimated with technical trail running again after running mostly smooth trails and roads since the Peaks 100 in May.  With the Vermont 100 70% dirt roads/ paved roads I'd really been focusing on hills and specificity of terrain for two months between the hundreds, then focusing solely on roads and speed, no hills, for the marathon.

I thought this set me up real nice for Stone Cat and set a plan in place to ramp the mileage back up and hit some hills.  However my body was just tired, and I was okay with it.  Most attempts at a long run simply ended short and my average weekly mileage was about 35.  I would say I took great comfort in not "pushing" myself for Stone Cat and just looking forward to going out and having fun.  So the training became moot, and I rested and recovered whenever my body told me to taking solace in the fact that enough had been done this year to get me through it.


We started at 6:30, a bit later than anticipated, in relatively chilly 34 degree weather, but with comfortably high humidity.  The Trail Monsters and friends were there in force with a bunch running and a healthy group supporting.  Ian, Nathan, George, Ann, Rick, Bob, Julia, Danielle, Jeff and Kevin were all running the marathon, with Joe running the 50 as well.  Alison, Francesca, Val, Mindy, David, and Ryan were crewing, cheering and cooking.

The first half mile was great catching up with Joe while moving steadily in the procession of headlamps.  My thought process was to stay between 110 and 120 minutes each lap and either have something in the end to push, or have a cushion to make it under 8 hours.  Part of me wanted to run 9 minute average throughout the race but I wasn't real sure that was possible.  For some reason the trail technicality seemed a bit trickier than I anticipated and a few of the inclines felt tough. 

Dave Roberts was on the course cheering for Julia and graciously grabbed my jacket, headlamp, and hat after 5 or six miles.  I didn't bother stopping at the well-equipped aid stations and maintained a steady pace.  Needless to say I was surprised when a few 50 milers passed me like I was walking.  The first two were from Canada and it was their first 50.  The next guy was working on a PR and moved fluidly through the course.  The final gent was super nice and flew by me like I was taking a nap.  More than happy with my pace and plan I gave no chase and settled in to enjoy the morning.

We all definitely lucked-out with the conditions this year and were able to mostly keep our feet dry with very little water and mud on the course.  The first lap was over in around 1:51 and after a quick run through the aid station with Alison and the TM's supporting it was back on the course. 

The second lap consisted of staying in-the-groove, enjoying the gorgeous scenery and feeling the fun, rolling course.  Pretty bogs with vibrant green lichen, a small pond visible just through a grove of trees, splashes of color around every corner, and smiling spectators made for a wonderful run.  I was passed early on by a 50 miler and his pacer moving easily, and sounding fresh, but was still happy with my movement.  My cousin Jeff, running the marathon, caught up to me giving us some time to chat and enjoy the woods together.  He took off after a bit and cruised away with some healthy determination to finish strong.  He ended up getting 5th!

Lap two ended after about 1:50 with a total time of 3:41 or so and the start of lap three began with some stiffening legs.  At one point I noticed a few pebbles in my right shoe and focused on them.  They danced around between my toes and rotated positions from front to back of foot.  I briefly thought about removing them, but they didn't seem to cause any harm, and were actually fun to visualize.  Rolling around in the cozy, warm New Balance MT110's, like taking a spin in a kids rock tumbler.

Somewhere in the middle of the third lap I ran in to the guy who was working on his PR and unfortunately he was having pain issues with his entire legs.  I offered him a few S!Caps but he was just going to walk it in, and I think he ended up stopping after three.  More potatoes, a refill of water and another high-five with the Stone Cat mascot and lap three was done.  Not too sure but I think lap three ended after a total of 5:34, or somewhere around 1:52 for the lap.  I sucked down a shot of Yerba Mate' and hit the trail to finish it off.

Lap four was tough, of course.  I was definitely feeling the mileage and not quite sure I'd get under 8 at this point.  My heart rate was way up and running every hill was no longer an option.  It was power hiking and working the flats as best I could, making up as much time on the downhill sections.

Luckily Dave had asked if I wanted a pacer and I graciously accepted his offer.  He said he'd catch-up, and after missing me at a few of the trail intersections we finally ran together.  He was fabulous, with high energy and a whooping call every time we came up on runners.  Somewhere along the way we passed a few of the people who'd bested me in the first lap.  Toward the end, with a mile or so left in the race, Dave and I both noticed a 50 miler a few hundred yards ahead of us.  It was go time.  We dropped the hammer and caught him with about a half mile to go.  I definitely feared collapsing at this point and felt a couple "warning" twinges in my legs reminding me to keep it safe.

The end finally came, and Dave and I cruised in to the field with whoops and hollers all around.  7:37:xx, about 2:03 for the lap.  It was a fabulous day with the sun finally out and a great course set by G.A.C.  I really appreciate Alison and Francesca's help the Trail Monsters support, Dave's companionship, and my cousins camaraderie.  It's time to take a month off and let the body recuperate for next year.

Results here

Monday, October 1, 2012

Maine Marathon

It was probably ten years ago that I mentioned to my father I'd like to run a sub 3 hour marathon.  I remember him stating "it's only a matter of training."  I think it was shortly after my first Vermont City Marathon in 2002 with a time of 3:48.  In 2005 I ran it again and PR'd with 3:45.

The next time I really put weight to the thought of sub-3, and verbalized it was last October, when I told a friend that among my goals for 2012 I wanted to break three hours.

The training was effective.  Two months of mostly road work mixing Jack Daniel's running programs with advice from friends, family and what felt right.  It took six weeks to 'get in the groove' and feel like changes were taking place, but worth the intensity.  All hill work was scrapped, and the focus switched to increasing the tempo runs and spending as much time close to pace as possible.  There were still ups and downs though.  A run was either really great and confidence building, or quite horrible and humbling.  With all the different training practices out there it was tough to stay with just one for the duration.  I really wanted to continue the experiment and try-it-all.  Next time.

Alison, Louie, Francesca and I arrived at the Back Cove at about 7:15, a half hour before the start.  Right away David and Mindy pulled up, followed by Nathan.  The TM contingent was already forming.  After a short chat and pit stop it was time for a warm-up jog and the start.

5 minutes to go...and it's that way
Meandering my way through the crowd I found Bob Dunfey who I'd chatted with a bit over the last few weeks and learned he'd run 124 marathons, 26 of which were under 3 hours.  Really impressive man with a vast array of ultras to his name as well.  He inquired about my goal, previous race times, and instilled some sagely wisdom, basically saying "you've got it." 

The starting gun interrupted the announcer mid-sentence, and we were off!  The first few miles went by relatively calm, chatting with a few people from all over the place.  Mike from PA and I talked for a while and discussed pace and goals.  My goal was to stay as close to 6:45 as possible and hopefully have a negative split.  We ran for quite a while in a pack of six or so including one of the top women.  

I ate a gel around mile 4 and continued to sip water at most aid stations.  Unfortunately I missed Alison and friends at the intersection of 1 and 88, and also at the next four places we were going to meet up.  They got stuck in traffic and the few places they were able to get to I'd gone by already.

Val and Mindy were cheering runners on the course and I think I notice their Bad Ass shirts first, then realized it was them (badasseries).  The turn around for the half marathon runners came and went, and around that time the second place female took over the lead.  A few miles later, John from Hawaii, (now living in Portland) and I ran together and chatted about Hawaiian trails and the local trails and area Monsters.

I'd seen Ian, James, and Jim on bikes earlier in the day, and around mile 11 they pulled up beside me again.  Ian held out a flask of whiskey pulling me along for a few steps, tempting my taste buds, then replaced it with a much appreciated gel.  Jim threatened to moon me if I didn't speed up, and James' encouraging words gave me a lift.  They were quite succinct with their message, "you're just on pace, if you want to break 3, pick it up." 

The turn down Gilman Rd. was crazy.  Ton's of spectators cheering on, a massive crowd, and the first sighting of the lead man.  Down the hill, a right turn, a brief dirt road section, and the half way point, 1:28:56.  Okay, game on now.  I was definitely feeling the pace at this point, but confident I could still get it done.  Focus on pace, lean forward, open up the hips, run from your core, not the legs, relax, smile, enjoy the effort.  I cycled through positivity and mental mantra's hoping to maintain, and possibly increase a bit.

On that loop we saw a lot of inspiring people moving steadily through the now pouring rain.  Many relay runners, walkers and a few groups of military men in full gear including heavy packs.  Everyone was in high spirits passing thumbs up, positive words, and smiles all around.  Just awesome.

Ian, James and Jim were there again as we climbed the hill approaching 88.  Ian passed me another gel and the three continued to ride with me a bit more.  Really fantastic.  I had my Garmin set to beep every mile so I could monitor my progress, but it was off by a bit and would sound (when I heard it) just in sight of the real mile marker, 50 or so yards away.  This was discouraging as I knew my average pace was slower than what the watch was telling me.  So when James asked if I wanted to know my split time I took it thankfully.  I think it was mile 16 when Ian jumped off the bike, ran along with me and gave me the beta.  "You're on pace for sub-3, run consistent for a few miles, then kick it in."

Mile 19 and Alison, Louie, David and Mindy were there cheering.  Louie gave me a cup of Nuun, and Alison gave me a few gels.  I was really excited to see them and it charged me up for sure.  Shortly thereafter Zak sprightly joined me and began pacing and encouraging me through a few miles.  Jim turned down his road and sent a few more words my way.  Absolutely great to have him there as well. 

The thirty percent chance of showers turned to 100 percent downpour but with comfortable temperatures the running was perfect.  I just felt bad for the spectators and bikers getting soaked though and really appreciated their infectious support.

I saw Ian again with about 5 miles to go.  He offered me another gel, but at this point I'd taken four and knew I'd had enough.  My legs were feeling the effort for sure at this point but I was certain I had it in the bag.  With my rough math I figured if I was able to muster 7 minute miles I'd still be under three.

Three miles to go and I took another gel.  With only water consumed along the course I worried about losing energy and low electrolyte-induced leg cramps, which were already threatening with mild spasms.  The last thing I wanted was to stumble before the finish like I did at the Pineland 50 last year.

I think I'd passed a few marathon people in the final 10k, but it was hard to tell with the mix of relay runners.  Once on the Back Cove I recognized a guy I'd seen from the start about a quarter mile ahead.  My goal now was to avoid the leg cramps, finish strong, and pass the runner.  Ian must have seen the determination on my face and he whispered to me, "go get him."  It felt good to gain another position, but if felt fantastic to know the end was near and I'd attained my goal. 

Seeing the finish line was pure elation and the final push was definitely all I had.  With a huge crowd and screaming people I hit my watch at 2:56:10.  Done.

What a fabulous time and with tremendous support from all.  Thank you to everyone who came out, crewed, and supported.  Your energy helped me through the miles for sure and the fact you endured the rainy conditions makes it even more precious.  Thank you!

Mile splits off due to Garmin discrepancies.  (about .03/mile)

Mile 16:41.81
Mile 26:39.51
Mile 36:37.31
Mile 46:46.08
Mile 56:47.23
Mile 66:49.24
Mile 76:45.32
Mile 86:55.76
Mile 96:52.78
Mile 106:54.17
Mile 116:30.78
Mile 126:39.94
Mile 136:47.49
Mile 146:39.41
Mile 156:46.48
Mile 166:39.8
Mile 176:52.37
Mile 186:25.48
Mile 196:27.16
Mile 206:19.13
Mile 216:40.03
Mile 226:24.38
Mile 236:34.76
Mile 246:44.54
Mile 256:42.46
Mile 266:43.02
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